S’mores Brownies

Ooey-gooey. It’s the only honest way to describe a s’more—with its melty, oozing richness of milk chocolate, warmed and softened by a fresh-from-the-campfire toasted marshmallow and squished between two delicately crispy, honey-sweetened graham crackers. It is a little dessert sandwich that says, “come on, be a kid again!” This beautifully sticky, utterly sweet nostalgic treat is fantastic on its own, but now I’ve just gone and made it even more sinful by baking it into a rich, dark, fudgy brownie.

Why in the world would I do such a thing, when I’m supposed to be watching my calories? One reason: National S’mores Day!

You probably think these are ridiculous, and you’re absolutely right!

What Goes Into S’mores Brownies?

There’s no campfire required to make these, and you don’t have to get carried away making them from scratch, either. My s’mores brownie recipe (like all my brownie riffs) is based on my favorite brownie box mix, and I am confident that it would work well with your favorite, too. All you need (besides whatever the brownie box says) is a sleeve of graham crackers, a little melted butter, a jar of marshmallow cream, two Hershey’s milk chocolate bars and a smidge of cream cheese.

The main ingredients are exactly what you’d expect. You’ll also need a little butter, a dab of cream cheese and whatever is required for making the brownie batter.

This would be a fun and tasty activity with the kids, the grandkids, the neighbor kids, the big kid you married or perhaps just the kid in you! There is playfulness in making them, and my hubby even joined the action during assembly—it’s funny how quick he is to lend a hand when dessert is involved, and he was definitely excited about these.

S’mores brownies are excellent when served in their just-cooled state after baking, but (as my husband discovered) they are also great cold from the fridge. My neighbor reports that they are awesome warmed up for a few seconds in the microwave—you know, bringing that melty gooiness back to life. We even tried them warmed with a small scoop of ice cream on top. I think it’s safe to say that there is not a bad way to enjoy a s’mores brownie.

The cold, creamy ice cream was a nice complement to the ultra-rich s’mores brownie.

How to Make S’mores Brownies

Did I mention that making them is easy? You’ll find an easy click-to-print recipe at the end of the post. It includes all the measurements and directions I used. But first, some eye candy!

I started with a graham cracker base—the same as I would make for a cheesecake or key lime pie. My graham crackers were packaged in “stacks,” which are basically just pre-halved graham squares for quick and easy s’more making. I used two stacks for the crumb base. Prepare your baking pan with a few swipes of cold butter along the bottom and sides to ensure easy removal of the ooey-gooey brownies, with all its sticky sweet fillings. Add graham crackers to the bowl of a food processor, and pulse several times to break them up into rough crumbs. Then add the melted butter and pulse again several times, until the mixture resembles coarse, wet sand. Transfer the crumbs into the buttered pan and press firmly onto the bottom, but not up the sides. Bake a few minutes to set the crumbs and then let it cool.


For the marshmallow layer, I used the same trick as in my S’mores Ice Cream last year—I used an electric mixer to combine the entire jar of marshmallow cream with a small amount of cream cheese. This knocks out the airy bubbles, making it more manageable for layering inside the brownies. Scoop this mixture into a zip top bag, seal it and set it aside.


Make the brownie batter according to package instructions. If you are obsessed with dark chocolate (ahem, like me), feel free to add a tablespoon of dark cocoa powder to the dry mix first. I planned to use Hershey milk chocolate in the layers (for its ooey-gooey properties), so the addition of cocoa is how I got my dark chocolate fix. Spoon roughly half of the brownie mixture as evenly as possible over the baked graham crust. Don’t try to spread it, as this will dislodge those beautiful crumbs. Just spoon it and let it ooze into place.


Next, snip a small corner off the bag holding the marshmallow cream and gently pipe it all over the first layer of brownie batter. I did my best to keep this layer from seeping to the edges, because marshmallow tends to turn hard and chewy if it cooks too much. My hubby jumped in to help at this point, as he had opened up the Hershey bars and broken them into individual pieces for layering onto the marshmallow cream. He may also have been doing a little quality control for me—a.k.a. taste testing the chocolate bars—and it was fun hearing him describe how he broke the bars into little pieces like that when he was a kid. You know, to make the chocolate bar last longer. 🙂

We arranged the chocolate with a little space in between so the marshmallow had plenty of room to ooze.


The rest of the brownie batter was layered on, and it was tricky to spoon it on evenly without creating a muddy swirl. Next time, I might use a zip top bag to pipe that on as well, but the swirls were not too pronounced. A few broken pieces of extra graham cracker, and our brownies were ready for the oven! My box mix suggested 45 to 50 minutes, and I gave it the full 50. My s’mores brownies were a bit on the “fudgy” side, and I think a few extra minutes in the oven would have been just fine.

Now, the hard part. Waiting for them to cool!

As much as I’d love to claim that the calories fell out when we cut them into squares (spoiler alert—they didn’t), I think I’ll just declare that I’m glad National S’mores Day only comes once a year!


S'mores Brownies

  • Servings: 9 or 16, depending on how you cut them
  • Difficulty: average
  • Print

There’s no campfire required to make these, and you don’t have to get carried away making them from scratch, either. My s’mores brownie recipe (like all my brownie riffs) is based on my favorite brownie box mix, and I am confident that it would work well with your favorite, too.

Ingredients

  • 1 box brownie mix, plus ingredients listed to make them (usually oil, water and egg)
  • 1 Tbsp. dark cocoa, optional for extra rich chocolate flavor
  • 1 sleeve honey graham crackers (or two “stacks,” if your package is like mine)
  • 3 Tbsp. salted butter, melted
  • 7 oz. jar marshmallow cream (or fluff)
  • 2 Tbsp. plain cream cheese
  • 2 full-size Hershey milk chocolate bars, broken into individual pieces
  • 1 or 2 additional graham crackers, broken into pieces for top of brownies

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325° F, or temperature recommended on the brownie mix. Place rack in center of oven. Butter the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking dish.
  2. Break up a sleeve of graham crackers (or two stacks) into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to break them into coarse crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse several more times, until mixture resembles wet sand.
  3. Transfer crumbs to buttered baking dish and press firmly onto the bottom but not up the sides. Use a small, flat-bottomed dish to make this easy. Bake graham crust for about 7 minutes, enough to set the crumbs. Cool to room temperature.
  4. In a small bowl, use an electric mixer or sturdy whisk to beat cream cheese and marshmallow fluff together. Spoon mixture into a quart size, zip top bag. Seal and set the bag aside for now.
  5. Make brownie batter according to package instructions. If using dark cocoa, add it to the dry ingredients before blending.
  6. Carefully spoon about half of the brownie batter onto the cooled graham crust. Do not spread the batter, as this will disturb the delicate crumbs.
  7. Snip a corner of the zip top bag and use it as a piping bag to distribute the marshmallow cream over the brownie batter. Try to keep the cream about an inch away from the side edges of the dish.
  8. Arrange the individual Hershey pieces all over the marshmallow cream. It doesn’t have to be perfect; just aim for uniform coverage with a bit of space in between each piece.
  9. Carefully spoon the remaining batter over the layers of marshmallow and chocolate pieces. I found this easiest by using small spoonfuls, beginning around the edges of the dish first, to keep the chocolate pieces from being pushed to the outside.
  10. Break up about two additional graham crackers (or four, if using the stacks); arrange them randomly over the top of the brownies.
  11. Bake for the full time recommended on the brownie package, until the top of brownies is done to its usual state. (If you’re using a favorite brand, you’ll know what they should look like on top)
  12. Cool to room temperature before cutting and serving.



Black Forest Cake

Before we get into it, I’d like to issue my own disclaimer about the inauthenticity of this recipe as a “Black Forest” cake. Any purist would quickly point out that a true, German Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte would be more of a spongy chocolate cake, soaked with kirsch (a clear cherry liqueur) and decorated with whipped cream, sour cherries and shavings of chocolate. But when is the last time you remember me sticking to tradition?

My version of this cake is a departure in almost every category, save for the chocolate and cherry flavors. Cake baking is not in my wheelhouse, so I went for a recipe that I knew I could count on—a sourdough chocolate cake from King Arthur Baking that has served me well before—and I adjusted the fillings to match it. My whipped cream filling is enhanced with mascarpone, making it more substantial to support the sturdy cake. The cake itself is not super sweet, so the cherries had to be. And kirsch liqueur (or any cherry liqueur, for that matter) is nowhere to be found in our liquor stores, so I reached straight for what’s plentiful at our house—bourbon, and that was a very good call.

The cake is not difficult to make, but it is fussy enough that it deserves a special occasion. I was going to save this until the week of Valentine’s Day, but my husband heard on his favorite sports talk show this morning that today is National Chocolate Cake Day, so, heck yeah! We might as well get a jump start on swooning over it. 😉

Every slice has a great balance of cherry and chocolate. Who cares if it isn’t a true Black Forest cake? 🙂

We splurged on this decadent, multi-layer dessert to finish our New Year’s Eve meal of White Clam Pizza and our newest addition, the Oysters Rockefeller Pizza, and the cake was delicious for the occasion (and, remarkably, just as good later as leftovers straight from the fridge).

Frosting a cake requires patience that I do not have (especially at the holidays), so I went for a more rustic appearance, which also afforded us a glimpse of the yumminess that was to come, in the form of mascarpone cream and cherries hanging out the sides. There was no whipped cream wrapped around the outside of my cake and no shavings of chocolate, as one would find on a true Black Forest Cake. But it was delicious, with a capital D.

My layers were a little uneven, but the flavors were phenomenal.

So, is it authentic Black Forest Cake? No, but “Sourdough Dark Chocolate Cake with Bourbon-Soaked Cherry and Mascarpone Filling with Ganache Topping” is a mouthful. Plus, it didn’t fit in the title box. 😉


Ingredients

1 recipe Sourdough Chocolate Cake | King Arthur Baking, baked in 9-inch layer pans* (see instruction notes)

Bourbon Cherries and Syrup

1 lb. bag frozen dark sweet cherries

1/2 cup organic cane sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened black cherry juice

2 oz. bourbon

Mascarpone Filling

1 cup heavy cream

8 oz. tub mascarpone

1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1 tsp. real vanilla extract

Ganache Topping

8 oz. dark melting chocolate wafers

1 cup heavy cream

1 oz. amaretto (optional)

8 bourbon cherries or morello cherries, with stems (for decorating cake top)


Instructions

Bake the cake as instructed on King Arthur website. I followed the instructions with one ingredient adjustment; I replaced half of the natural cocoa with KA’s Double Dark Dutch Cocoa. I am crazy about the deep, dark color and chocolate flavor! Also, I baked it in two buttered and cocoa-dusted 9-inch layer pans rather than the 9 x 13 that was suggested, and the cake was done in 30 minutes. Cool the cake layers completely before removing them from the pans.

Not riding the sourdough train? No problem; use any other dark chocolate cake recipe you like, provided the layers are sturdy.

For the cherry syrup, mascarpone filling and shiny ganache topping, I’ll provide a visual walkthrough, and you can scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable recipe if you want to give it a go in your kitchen. Happy Chocolate Cake Day! 🙂


This is my Black Forest cake.


Cheesy Stuffed Crust Supreme Deep-Dish Pizza

Every so often, I get a kick out of looking at the National Day calendar, which reminds me of the non-official occasions I can choose to celebrate on a given day. For example, yesterday was Talk Like a Pirate Day, but I didn’t mark the occasion because that felt ridiculous.

Perhaps it is a bit of serendipity, or just coincidence (which my husband, Les, does not believe exists) that I discovered today, Sept. 20, is both National Pepperoni Pizza Day and National String Cheese Day. The two seemingly separate “events” are both going to be recognized with this insanely over-the-top deep-dish pizza that we made at our house a full three months ago. Sometimes, in the rush to get something else posted on the blog, I end up putting some delicious thing on the back burner. In this instance, it worked out, because this pizza, which I dubbed “Go Big or Go Home,” happens to be perfect for this day. The toppings included pepperoni, but also sausage, peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and a ton of cheese, and the Chicago-style crust had a circle of string cheese strips enclosed all around the edges.

So much Italian flavor in here and soooo much cheese!

We had been dreaming about a cheesy stuffed crust pizza for a while, but I had a hard time imagining how to keep thick mozzarella sticks secured inside the dough without making a square pie. My solution was to tear the string cheese into strips and then overlap the strings in layers all the way around. Why didn’t that occur to me sooner? It resulted in a perfectly cheesy, ooey-gooey pizza experience, and made it one of the most fun versions of a deep dish that we have made (so far 😉).


Ingredients

1 recipe deep dish pizza dough (see my previous post for Chicago Deep Dish or use your own)

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

5 sticks of mozzarella string cheese, pulled apart into about four strips for each

1 packed cup shredded whole milk mozzarella, divided

1/2 cup cooked Italian sausage (we used a spicy variety)

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped and sauteed

1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped and sauteed

About 20 pieces thinly sliced pepperoni

1/2 can San Marzano tomatoes, drained and squeezed by hand

A few spoonfuls of your favorite prepared pizza sauce

Several shakes of your favorite Italian seasoning blend


Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450° F, with oven rack in center position.
  2. Add olive oil to a 14-inch, deep dish pizza pan and swirl it around. Shape the pizza dough, leaving as much extra dough around the edges as possible.
  3. Arrange the strips of string cheese, overlapped so there is plenty of cheese thickness all the way around the edges of the pizza dough. Gently stretch and pull the edges of dough over the string cheese strips and press to seal it to the base of the dough. Portion half of the shredded mozzarella onto the base and use your hands to press it firmly into the base of the pizza and also to cover the stuffed crust seam.
  4. Layer on the cooked Italian sausage, then the peppers, onions and mushrooms. Arrange slices of pepperoni generously all over the pizza. Scatter the crushed canned tomatoes randomly over the pepperoni, and then drop a few spoons of pizza sauce in-between the tomatoes and spread it lightly.
  5. Sprinkle the pizza, including the dough around the edges, with your favorite Italian seasoning blend. Sprinkle the rest of the shredded mozzarella, along with any remaining strips of string cheese, on top of the pizza.
  6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling. The cheese will be lightly browned and bubbling also. Let the pizza cool in the pan for 8 minutes before transferring it to a pizza tray. We use a large pancake turner and a wide fish spatula to get under the pizza to move it. Alternatively, cut the pizza right in the pan and serve up the wedges.

See? Go big or go home!


What Makes Breakfast Better?

One of the websites I visit frequently for inspiration, or sometimes sheer amusement value, is the (U.S.) National Day Calendar, which announces quite matter-of-factly what we should be celebrating on a given day. This gave me a heads-up to plan for National S’mores Day, when I shared my adventures with this dessert pizza and this sweet sippin’ cocktail.


Though September has many standalone “days” worth celebrating, including:

6th – coffee ice cream day
9th – teddy bear day
16th – cinnamon raisin bread day
19th – talk like a pirate day
24th – cherries jubilee day
25th – one hit wonder day
28th – North Carolina day (because I love living here)

I am more appreciative of the monthlong celebrations that relate to food during September, and that’s where I will place my attention—I’m focusing on September as National Mushroom Month, Whole Grains Month and Better Breakfast Month. The latter of those three, better breakfast month, has left me wondering:

What makes breakfast “better?” I’m not sure who decides what that means.

Is a better breakfast one that is better for you? Or does breakfast become better when it’s fancier, or less common, or prettier, or tastier or more balanced—or what? We’ve been told all our lives that breakfast is “the most important meal of the day,” yet most of us skip through it without fanfare because it also happens to be the busiest time of day, especially if there are school-age children involved. The challenge of getting the kiddos off to school with the nutritional fuel their brains need is a tale as old as time, and COVID certainly isn’t helping this year. Even for adults, if any daily meal is prone to be routine and boring, it’s breakfast. Raise your hand if you eat the same thing for breakfast at least three times a week. Now raise your hand if you didn’t even bother to eat breakfast today. I’m guilty of that a lot. The most important meal of the day, yet so hard to manage.

At our house, weekends are better breakfast days, largely because my husband is not out the door at 7 am as he is Mondays through Fridays. By Saturday, we are ready for a slower-paced meal together, and although I wouldn’t label every weekend breakfast as special or better, we occasionally do some pretty fun things with this ever-important meal. I’ll share a few as the month rolls along—of the whimsical and the decadent, and hopefully even a few new ones on my bucket list. Until then, chew on these ideas for inspiration:

I’d also like to know what breakfast is about at your house. What makes it challenging, or what breakfast dishes do you look forward to on special occasions? Tell me in the comments section so I can have new inspiration, too. 🙂